This is fiction. Any similarities to actual events are coincidental. But if it does seem familiar, may I say: lucky you.
Getting out of my car and running late, I juggled my purse, briefcase, extra bag (why is there always an extra bag?), and coffee and wound up wearing a precious sip of my brain rehydration fluid.
“I hope that I can benefit from that through osmosis,” I muttered.
I walked more gingerly to the elevator now, careful not to splash any more of my coffee and trying to figure out how to disguise the tell-tale stain once I got to the office. Distracted, I pressed the wrong button once I got in. Because I was late, the elevator was empty, so it moved quickly to the plaza level.
As the door slid open I stepped forward to press the correct button and I almost dropped my coffee.
He did, too; a synchronized juggle on both our parts saved the coffees and some embarrassment.
He breathed my name more than spoke it, and that activated something inside that doesn’t typically get activated when I am going to work. The seconds stretched out, warping time. It was standing still and taking me back.
It felt like a long time before I could speak and only trusted myself to say, “Hi, there.” It was more of a squeak than I wanted it to be. How long had it been? I tried to count the months–the years!–and my brain seemed to have shut down. I could only see his eyes.
Oh my God, those eyes. So blue, so kind, so deep. I used to get lost in them.
Why had we broken up again? I struggled to form coherent thoughts. My brain seemed scrambled as if I had just awakened from a deep, dreamy sleep, not knowing where I was.
Something about different priorities, blah, blah, blah. It seemed stupid now.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash. The light reflected off something shiny. Oh, yeah, my wedding ring. I was married now. I found someone with the same priorities, and we tied the knot two years ago.
Blah, blah, blah.
He seemed to notice the same thing, and I desperately looked anywhere but my left hand.
The elevator started to beep.
“What floor do you need?” he asked.
Suddenly, I was transported to a very different floor — with him. What floor do I need? Grasping my bags tightly, I dug my fingernails into my palm, willing myself to the here and now.
“19,” I forced out with some difficulty, wondering if I’d said it loud enough for him to hear.
He pressed 19 and then 12. Unflappable as always, he leaned into a corner of the elevator in a supermodel way that had always made me feel like he was too hot for me.
“You look good,” he said, looking at me in a penetrating way that made me wonder if I had buttoned my shirt that morning.
Suddenly, I was all too aware of the coffee stain on said shirt, looking at it the way one looks at a wreck on the freeway, not wanting to see it but unable to look away. I looked back at him, sure that I would die from embarrassment. I started to mount a protest but he cut me off.
“You look good,” he said again, with a kindness and intensity that made it clear that there would be no argument.
The elevator dinged, and as the door slid open, he leaned toward me. Looking into my eyes, he pointed to his heart and said, “You are here, always.”
And then he was gone; the door whooshed shut, and the elevator resumed its climb to the 19th floor.